The 2019 Malaria Indicator Survey (GMIS) has shown that only 14 per cent of children age six to 59 months in Ghana, tested positive for malaria by microscopy, indicating an impressive decline in the disease prevalence.
The new report also showed a reduced prevalence of anaemia among this age group, with a drop by half from eight per cent in 2014, to the current four per cent in 2019.
These findings from the 2019 GMIS, were shared by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) in collaboration with the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) through a virtual journalists’ webinar for further discussion and education.
Over the period of two hours, the participants who were made up of local and international journalists, watched a key findings presentation of the 2019 GMIS results by experts from the GSS and the NMCP, after which they were allowed to ask questions about the survey results.
A representative of The DHS Program, which is a USAID-funded project for the implementation of population and health surveys in countries worldwide, also demonstrated how to read and understand GMIS tables, and how to visualise GMIS data in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program’s mobile app, which is currently available for free in Google Play or iOS store.
Mr Peter Takyi Peprah, the Head of the Field Operation and Logistics Section of the GSS, in a presentation on the key indicators, explained that microscopy data among children age between six and 59 months indicated a declined of malaria prevalence from 27 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent in 2019.
However, there were some regional variations where malaria prevalence was seen to be more than three times higher among rural children (20 per cent), than urban children which was six per cent, and a further analysis by regions, showed that the incidence ranged from a low of two per cent in Greater Accra to a high of 27 per cent the Western Region, he said.
Mr Peprah said a total of 5,833 women age between 15 and 49 years were interviewed, representing a response rate of 99 per cent, and the sampling frame was based on households in 200 enumeration rural and urban areas.
The primary objectives of the 2019 GMIS, he said, were therefore to measure the level of ownership and use of mosquito nets; assess coverage of intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) for pregnant women; identify treatment practices, including the use of specific antimalarial medications to treat malaria among children age six to 59 months; measure the prevalence of the disease, as well as anaemia among children of this age group; and further assess malaria knowledge, attitudes, and practices among women.
Mr Samuel Oppong, a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with the NMCP, spoke about the fact that the use of Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITNs) have increased with 74 per cent household ownership of nets nationwide.
He said the study observed that “three in four Ghanaian households own at least one ITN, and half of households have at least one ITN for every two people who stayed in the household the night before the survey.
The data further showed that “over half (54 per cent) of children under five and 49 per cent of pregnant women age 15-49 slept under an ITN the night before the survey. ITN use among children under five and pregnant women has stagnated since 2016”.
Mr Peprah said among women age 15-49 who have heard of malaria, 59 per cent have seen or heard a malaria message in the six months before the survey, and one in three of them had heard about the malaria vaccine, while nine in 10 said they would allow their child to be vaccinated against the disease.
He said the 2019 GMIS provided up-to-date estimates of basic demographic and health indicators for malaria at the national level, for urban and rural areas, and for each of the 10 former administrative regions, explaining that although Ghana in the same year created six new regions; the new administrative boundaries were not available during survey design of the 2019 GMIS.
He said in spite of all the gains made in the country’s malaria prevention, there was still the need to accelerate prevention, by encouraging positive attitudes in the use of ITN, and all other preventive interventions; seeking early reporting, proper diagnosis and treatment for children and pregnant women with malaria, as well as intensify surveillance, monitoring and evaluation.
Mr Peprah said the 2019 GMIS was being implemented by the GSS, in close collaboration with the NMCP and the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), with funding for the survey provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Government of Ghana.
Ms Sally Zweimuller, a Research Specialist who demonstrated the use of The DHS Program mobile app, urged journalists to seek for the right information and data through this channel, to enrich their reportage and to intensify education on malaria prevention especially in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.